As part of a recent, friendly bet (which you can see outlined here on Twitter) I have committed to not only watching every single episode of this season of Star Wars: The Bad Batch, but I must also write 500-word (minimum) reviews about the series!
That’s not actually sarcasm. I’m excited to write about Star Wars again, and am using this as an excuse and a bit of a prod to kickstart myself back into some writing. Without further ado…
I Guess It’s a Planet Now?
This (past) week’s episode, “Cornered,” opens with the crew of the Havoc Marauder stuck between what Hunter proposes (hiding out on an uninhabited world) and reality (needing to get supplies like food and fuel); they’re also now on a wanted list, making any landing they do attempt all the more dangerous. Tech suggests heading to Pantora (incorrectly referring to it as a “planet,” interestingly enough) which is the nearest inhabited locale, where they can beef up their rations and he’ll change the ship’s engine signature.
Things, of course, don’t quite go to plan for the ragtag Clone Force 99.
I found the joke with Echo being seen as a droid somewhat funny, and his subplot with the droid crew (including new fan-favourite Clink) rather cute, but I know some people thought it went a little too far in both dehumanizing the already tragically cyborg’d clone (yes, you read that right) and in terms of the already uneven treatment of droids in Star Wars, who seem to exist in a weird space in-between worker and slave. I wonder if the act of being sold off (for less than he thought he was worth) was more damaging or not for Echo, who already seems to be a clone apart so-to-speak–not only from the “regs,” the rank-and-file clones who are now (essentially, in everything if not name) stormtroopers, but also from his other squad-mates in the Bad Batch, who share a common bond of being defective and/or altered from “birth.”
Omega in this episode is, once again, Rey-like in her wonder at the wider galaxy, but she’s different in that for whatever education the Kaminoans saw fit to subject her to, she is incredibly naïve about the ways of the galaxy, including things that we as fans would consider rather commonplace. Walking through the Pantoran streets, she doesn’t understand the jubilation at the end of the war; later, when lost, she lacks the awareness to understand that Fennec Shand may not be as trustworthy as she’s claiming to be. I didn’t actually love this sort of regression of the character, especially after last week’s more grounded, capable portrayal. I’m not saying I expect her to understand every situation she’s thrust into, but it might have been more interesting if she started to question Fennec’s motives before Hunter found them; as-is, she’s the unfortunately all-too-realistic child victim preyed upon by adults and their authority.
Wrecker, so often the butt of jokes and the childlike voice of the series (even more so than Omega), might be my least favourite character in the series, unfortunately. He borders a bit too closely on the edge of unbelievability for me to feel fully comfortable accepting that he could be part of this élite squad of commandos. I like the rare moments of introspection and when he interacts with Omega, which this episode mostly lacked; his defeat in the sewers serves as another bit of head trauma, which may yet be significant, and is also (as others have noted) an example of helmets in the Star Wars universe being mostly, it seems, for show.
When revealed to be a character in the series, I thought it interesting that Fennec would appear essentially unchanged from her appearance in The Mandalorian–a series set roughly twenty-eight years later, by my calculation. It’s definitely a choice still to give some of these characters an essentially “cartoon” or “comic book” attire that doesn’t really change, something we’ve already seen before in The Clone Wars and Rebels; but, ultimately, what’s more interesting about Fennec in this series is how established she already seems to be. She must be at least a decade older than the younger Fett, only a teenager during the Clone Wars, and she’s already well-known enough to inspire fear in her contact. I also can’t wait to see more of her ship and find out it’s name! The figure(s) who hired her to track down Omega are, for the time being, obscured, and I’ve seen fan-speculation run the gamut, but the most likely answer (especially given the end of the last episode) would be the Kaminoans. I wonder if hiring bounty hunters may end up alerting the Empire to their gambit.
All in all, I think “Cornered” might be my least favourite episode of the series so far–but I still enjoyed it. The action was delightful, and it was nice to see elements from live-action crossover into the animated realm (similar to how enjoyable it was to see Clone Wars elements used in The Mandalorian last year). But I feel the episode suffered from a bit of a middling adventure and a lack of insight into Crosshair’s current plight, although I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him soon enough.